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The stereotypes and gender barriers that stop men working in hospices

Caring, empathetic, kind and wise – such qualities fit our image of the ideal hospice nurse… so why is our image of that person overwhelmingly female?
Male nurse

Caring, empathetic, kind and wise – such qualities fit our image of the ideal hospice nurse… so why is our image of that person overwhelmingly female?

Picture the ideal hospice nurse: warm, caring, empathetic and blessed with a knack for calming patients with words and touch. When caring for the dying, the hospice nurse manages pain, controls symptoms and tends carefully to existential suffering. Patients are healed with kindness and wisdom, even those who cannot be cured. This is the image of a hospice nurse.

But did you picture a man?

Unsettling statistics

As a man, a biomedical researcher and an aspiring physician at Stanford University in California, US, my answer would have been no. That is, until I began volunteering in a hospice – talking, laughing and crying with terminally ill patients under the tutelage of hospice nurses.

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